Coronary risk profile

Definition

A coronary risk profile is a group of blood tests used to measure your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The profile can help determine your risk for heart disease.

Cholesterol is a soft, wax-like substance found in all parts of the body. Your body needs a little bit of cholesterol to work properly. But too much cholesterol can clog your arteries and lead to heart disease, stroke, and other problems.

Some types of cholesterol are considered "good" and some are considered "bad." Different blood tests are needed to measure each type of cholesterol.

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed. For information on how this is done, see: Venipuncture.

Your doctor may order only a cholesterol level as the first test, which will measure cholesterol and, sometimes, HDL cholesterol levels. You may not need more cholesterol tests if your cholesterol is in the normal range.

You may also have a lipid (or coronary risk) profile, which includes:

People who also have high triglyceride levels may get a test called a direct vLDL cholesterol (direct vLDL-C).

Other blood tests, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), may be added to the profile in some laboratories.

How to Prepare for the Test

Often, if you are only having a cholesterol level done, you can eat beforehand.

If you are having a lipid profile, you should not eat or drink anything except water 9 - 12 hours before having your blood drawn.

How the Test Will Feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

Why the Test is Performed

Cholesterol blood tests are done to help you and your doctor better understand your risk for heart disease, stroke, and other problems caused by blocked arteries.

ADULTS

Some guidelines recommend having the first cholesterol test done at age 20. Everyone should have their first screening test by age 35 in men, and age 45 in women.

People who have diabetes, heart disease, stroke, or high blood pressure should always have a cholesterol test done, no matter what their age.

Follow-up testing should be done:

CHILDREN

Not all experts agree on when to first check cholesterol levels in children. Some experts recommend only screening children who have risk factors, such as a family history of high cholesterol or heart attacks before age 55 in men, and before age 65 in women. Others recommend screening all children.

The US Preventative Task Force feels there is not enough evidence to recommend for or against cholesterol screening in children.

Normal Results

The ideal values depend on whether you have heart disease, diabetes, or other risk factors. Your health care provider can tell you what your goal should be.

The desired values in most healthy adults are:

Talk to your health care provider about the ideal levels in children.

For more information, see: Understanding your cholesterol results

Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

The examples above show the common measurements for results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal values may be a sign that you are at increased risk for heart disease, stroke, and other problems caused by blocked arteries. If your cholesterol is too high, you may need treatment to lower your cholesterol levels. This may include medicine and lifestyle changes.

Any active illness, such as a flare-up of arthritis, can change your total cholesterol number. If you have had an illness in the 3 months before having this test, you should have this test repeated in 2 or 3 months.

Risks

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:


Review Date: 6/3/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.